To Raj and Richard - Discovering India

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Vasco-Hazrat Nizamuddin Goa Express, the train we took from Vasco Station until Pune, was almost empty that Saturday afternoon. The a/c coaches were all the more empty. Since Vivek and I didn’t get the side berths, we shifted to the adjoining empty coupe’s side berths. At Madgaon station, boarded a huge white gentleman (the WWF type to quote Raj) with an Indian kudi, and took their places in our coupe.

Hours passed by as Vivek and I were mesmerized by the scenic beauty, the green valley beneath and the numerous waterfalls/waterways as the train waded through the Western Ghats. The train passes through more than 10 tunnels dug through the Sahyadri range. Occasionally we glanced to look sideward as the WWF person read aloud sentences that strangely sounded like Hindi/Punjabi, from a hand scribbled notebook. The Indian lady who had been frantically writing in her journal would stop and help him with the difficult words. We discovered later she was teaching him Punjabi.

I broke the silence when a chai wala stopped by. Our introductions revealed Raj (the Indian kudi) and Richard (the WWF gentleman) from England were on a 6 month trip to India. I was in complete awe to learn the lengths and breadths of India they had covered in the past 2 months. From Kanyakumari, Madurai, Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu to Bijapur, Badami in Karnataka to Trivandram, Cochin in Kerala and Goa they had seen just about every place in South India. They were on their way to explore the Central, West and North India over the next 4 months. Their trip was to to take them to Mumbai, Gujarat, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Amritsar, Shimla, Ladakh, Himalayas culminating in Delhi.

All set to explore India equipped with 2 backpacks and a Lonely Planet guide, their spirit of adventure is worth talking about. Here were 2 people who had taken a break from their full time jobs to travel to a nation that we as Indians had not explored in the past 2 decades. Reading about it in History books is one thing and experiencing is another.

Here they were, doing this journey by trains, buses and living modestly. It was good to hear about their experiences - some funny, some scary and some adventurous. Having lived a good part of my life in Trichy, it was interesting to know from Richard that you get the best Gobi Manchurian in woodlands, Trichy. Now thats indeed something!

Entering a second class Train compartment at 3:00 a.m. to Kanyakumari and flipping the switch on to disocver tens of cockroaches creeping over your fellow passengers, I don't think is funny. Which is when they said, they decided to take only a/c coaches for overnight travel. Isn't it scary to be mobbed by 100 people in Badami? As they narrated their travel by a cab on a no-road 12 Km stretch enroute Palolem in Goa from Londa keeping their fingers crossed in the hope of making it alive, it sounded you need to have nerves of steel to attempt something like that. To quote their own words, "Everything is an adventure".

10:40 p.m. It was time for them to leave. They got down at Miraj to board a connecting train to Pune at midnight, and we bid goodbye. The journey continues..and it was the end of a happy conversation. On a closing note, it made us reflect on our existence as compared to the "life" R&R were living.

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